A “stark” difference… – Bob Lauver

As I was riding the "T" to work this morning I realized that I was
missing an opportunity to give you a peek of a very unique "Schooltime"

On top of our subscription rehearsal schedule this week there have
been two "Schooltime" concerts.  The concept is one that has been
around for decades……..the PSO keeps in contact with local school
districts and arranges concerts that are attended by thousands of the
Pittsburgh area’s elementary school students.  Yesterday we performed
pieces by Shostakovich, Tchaikowsky, Britten, and Sousa.  We play the
Britten "Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra" on a regular basis for
young people’s concerts, and along with Prokofiev’s "Peter and the
Wolf", it’s some of the best orchestral music specifically for the
young.  Really it’s just plain great music for any age.  Frankly, I
think that it makes a difference to kids when they hear really great
music, they become much more attentive and interactive.  I’m getting
preachy and I digress…..the program we’ve been doing the past couple
of weeks is really great, and Larry Loh has been doing a great job of
leading the concert in a way that is professional and fun for the

The program, besides being great music, had a unique and exciting
addition to it. The "Young Person’s Guide" is narrated from start to
finish with the words of Britten himself explaining the piece and
introducing the instruments of the orchestra.  Lots of times you’ll
hear it narrated by the conductor him/herself, or by somebody from the
"symphony family".  This time we got the special treat of having Super
Bowl Champion, Steelers right tackle, Max Starks
as the narrator.  The crowd (and my neighborhood of the orchestra) went
nuts for him.  His stage presence is terrific.  Aside from the fact
that he stands taller on the stage than Larry does on the podium, he
obviously was liking what he was doing with us.  At the end of the
Britten the whole orchestra is really blazing away and finishes with a
triumphant D major chord……at the rehearsal we finished the piece
and Max let out one huge "WOOO!" that got us all grinning.  Thanks to
Max Starks for coming to Heinz Hall to perform with us, and bravo to
him for a job well done (get this on your resume for that sportscasting
job you’ll be in demand for when you retire). 

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